By Tyler Schneider
At long last, Grandview residents were offered their first in-person look at the design plans for an upcoming $15-million economic development project centered around converting the I-49 outer roads from the current one-way system back to the pre-1980 two-way traffic system between M-150 and Harry S. Truman drive.
Project manager Tawn Nugent of Trekk Design Group was on-site at the View Community Center for the two-hour session as she and other members of her design team made themselves available to answer questions alongside detailed blueprints of the plans.
“The corridor improvements will boost economic development, enhance circulation and promote multi-model transportation,” Nugent said of the project’s key objectives. Radmacher Brothers Excavating collaborated with Trekk to submit the winning designs for the outer roads conversion.
Construction on the west side outer roads will be underway this month and is expected to be completed by December 2021. Work on the east side outer roads will commence in October of this year and are set for a December 2022 completion date. Right of way acquisitions between Main Street and the east road are still ongoing and awaiting final approval from the state, but all other aspects of the design have been given the nod from state and federal officials.
Grandview municipal leaders worked in close partnership with the Missouri Department of Transportation to make the project a reality. City communications manager Valarie Poindexter penned a detailed history of the project’s origins for the May 2021 issue of the Missouri Municipal Review, in which she listed two “firsts” that the conversion efforts represent.
“It’s the first time any outer roads have been converted back to two-way traffic (statewide) and it is the transportation organization’s first federally funded, design-build project,” Poindexter noted.
Motions to formalize any such conversion had been a topic of discussion amongst Grandview residents in some form or another for well over a decade, but it wasn’t until 2012 — when the federal government designated US-71 Highway to Interstate Route I-49 — that such talks were granted an added legitimacy in municipal policy discussions. In February 2013, the city launched an I-49/US-71 Sustainable Redevelopment Corridor Plan to look into the matter in greater detail.
A series of community workshops brought residential concerns like bicycle safety to the table as the project gained steam in the years that followed. During that time, the city worked with MoDot to secure a total of $12 million in federal and state grant funding towards the efforts. As part of the deal, the city itself will match $3 million towards the project using municipal funds generated from the transportation sales tax. When the project is completed by the year 2023, Grandview will take on full ownership for the outer roads.
As the project kicks off this summer, the specifics behind ramp merge and diverge locations along the frontage roads will be evaluated in greater detail, in an effort to minimize weaving from I-49 to development driveways and cross streets along the route.
In conjunction with Grandview’s efforts, MoDOT has also already completed a new set of bridges spanning I-49 that are complete with sidewalks. Additional sidewalks along the outer roads will also be implemented as the project unfolds, though additional details in that area have yet to be finalized.